November 28, 2018
2 min read

Survey: Most adults unaware of flu risks from chronic health conditions

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William Schaffner
William Schaffner

Most adults in the United States are not aware that patients with chronic health conditions face a higher risk for influenza-related complications, according to results from a survey conducted by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

Specifically, the survey showed that less than 25% of U.S. adults understand that patients with heart disease or diabetes are at greater risk for influenza-related complications, with awareness being significantly lower among people of color than white respondents, the NFID said. Even fewer knew that heart attack, worsening of diabetes, stroke or disability can result in potential influenza-related complications.

The NFID previously announced that 80,000 people died and 900,000 were hospitalized during a particularly severe 2017-2018 influenza season, during which the predominant circulating virus was influenza A(H3N2), a strain known to evade the seasonal vaccine and cause relatively severe illness.

According to the NFID, among patients hospitalized for influenza last season, 92% had one or more underlying medical condition that placed them at high risk for influenza-related complications, including 46% with cardiovascular disease, 43% with metabolic disorders such as diabetes, 37% with obesity and 30% who had chronic lung disease. The foundation said 31% of U.S. adults aged 50 to 64 years and 47% aged 65 years or older are estimated to be at high risk for influenza-related complications chronic health conditions, the prevalence of which increases with age.

The NFID issued a call to action about the dangers of influenza infection and benefits of vaccination among adults with chronic health conditions that was developed from a roundtable meeting held in July in Washington, D.C.

The call to action, which can be found here, states a direct connection between influenza and exacerbation of chronic health conditions, the NFID said. It includes recommended strategies to improve outcomes for vulnerable populations.

“Flu can result in serious complications for individuals living with chronic health conditions, even when these conditions are well-controlled,” NFID Medical Director William Schaffner, MD, Infectious Disease News Editorial Board member and professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University, said in a statement. “It is imperative that healthcare professionals inform patients with chronic health conditions of their increased risk and insist on an annual flu vaccination to help protect them from complications including hospitalization, catastrophic disability and even death.”

Disclosures: The NFID reports funding and support from Sanofi Pasteur. Schaffner has reported relationships with Pfizer, Merck, Seqirus, SutroVax and Shionogi.

For more information:

National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. Flu and chronic health conditions.